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Murder is Hard for Writers Sometimes

November 10, 2012

One of the hardest things for a writer is murder. It is hard for us to kill our words.

Who can blame us? We sit at our desks for hours, writing a manuscript that means something to us. We put every word down for a reason.

Then, however, comes the editing. This editing, whether it be self-editing or at the hands of beta-readers, exposes our wordiness. We are, after all, writers. We don’t always know when to shut up. And sometimes we really do need to learn when to shut up. I mean, do we really need that whole paragraph describing Grandma’s couch? And can’t our main character deliberate for only half a page over whether to get into the stranger’s car? Why do we need two pages of inner monologue? Does it add anything?

Sometimes murder comes easily. We instantly know that a scene is a little too verbose, and why, and we can cut the offending part and not think twice about it.

Other times murder is harder. We get attached to scenes and lines. We think they’re clever, and even though they don’t do anything to move the story forward, we find excuses to leave them off the chopping block.

I’m currently in this predicament. I don’t want to commit murder, but I have to. I am in the process of revising my first draft of WOUNDED, my latest middle grade novel, and I just hit the 40,000-word mark. Since middle grade novels are short anyway, I feel like I’m in the home stretch. I just wrote the climax, and I would be surprised if this novel hit 50,000 words.

The thing is, in reading my first draft, I found scenes and phrases to kill. One scene, quite frankly, bores me, and I have a note to cut at least 300 words from it. And there are a few other scenes where I feel that the dialogue could definitely be tightened. If I listen to my inner editor, and I make these cuts, I will no longer have reached my 40,000 mark. I’ll have less words, and less words means – eek! – that I am further away from finishing my novel.

Unfortunately for my wordy self, but fortunately for the reader, I know what I must do. I must murder my darlings. As hard as it’s going to be, the book will be better off without them. In this case, less is more.

So now I must bid you adieu, as I turn my attention to the work at hand – MURDER!



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